There we were, all happy and bright, Mr O riding Barnaby and me riding Max, then as you know, Barnaby sustained his awful injury.
We got stuck in to the joys of mucking out a horse on box rest every single day. (Mr O had been praying for patience. That'll teach him! The Lord promptly decided to give him something to be patient for. I promise you he will never do anything so silly again).
It wasn't long before Mr O got itchy feet, having no horse to ride. What is a man to do?
He does what any horse-obsessed man does. He goes on the Farmers Guardian website and starts looking at horses for sale. It doesn't take long before a Thoroughbred catches his eye. It's a gelding, and it's in Blencarn, which is near Carlisle. ('Up North' to those of you who don't live in England).
Mr O rang the owner and asked for some information. The owner was an older man, who said the horse was an ex point-to-pointer (amateur racing) but the man was retiring from racing 'to concentrate on me chickens'. Mr O asked the crucial question, "How much?" The man said he'd given another horse away and found out a few months later the new owners had sold it for meat money. He was appalled. He wanted at least more than meat money for this horse to make sure it didn't happen again. Mr O took his details, and that weekend we went up to have a look at this possible horse.
The owner (Roy) got on him and rode him round in a little paddock, with no hat on and a cigar dangling from his lower lip. Mr O rode him round the village, and I rode him up the road. We looked him all over. We were smitten. We agreed on a price and drove home.
Blencarn is a long way from our house. Mr O got up at 3am the next morning, got in the lorry and drove all the way back up there, handed over a good deal of cash and loaded this beautiful boy up and began the long journey home.
And so began the experience of getting to know a new horse. But not just any horse, this time it was an ex-racehorse. Mr O soon learned that any aid (instruction) he gave this horse would be interpreted as 'go'. And go he did. There's a cow field near Lorna's yard, with a bridleway across it, but if you're quick you can do a few laps of the field before anyone notices.
Now Max is a cob, not built for speed, but for a chubby little fellow, he goes like the clappers. Other people comment on it, so I know I'm not imagining it. We took Max and Zak to the cow field. In the time it took me to go round once on an inner track, Zak had been round three times on the outer track. It was worth it just to see the look on Mr O's face.
We bought him in early September, and all the fields surrounding the farm had been cut. It's our favourite time of year. It means there is field after field of stubble to gallop on. We took both horses out onto the fields, and Mr O gave me and my friend Janet a head start, then set off. I could see Zak out of the corner of my eye as he effortlessly cruised past. It was like being overtaken by Red Rum. Janet said his breathing didn't even change. What a stunning horse.
One night we decided to have a proper look at his passport. First of all, he had parents. We'd never had a horse with parents before! If you look on Max and Barnaby's passports it says, 'Sire: Unknown, Dam: Unknown'. Poor things.
But in Zak's passport it says his racing name is Just Enough. His dam is Mistress Ross and his sire is Alflora. After that it gets a tad more interesting, as it transpires his great grandfather is none other than
the most prolific winning racehorse of all time. Oh my goodness. That explains the turn of speed. And his ability to tuck his landing gear up and clear a four foot hedge with a ditch in front with no effort whatsoever.
Then came the day of the yard Treasure Hunt. Mr O had only had Zak for a week and so had decided not to take part, but changed his mind at the very last minute. My team was called 'Wild Wild West' and so, of course, the four of us were dressed as cowboys and indians. Mr O's team were Roman gods and goddesses and soon he appeared clad in a sheet over his white jods, and a wreath round his head, and frankly, not much else. The treasure hunt was a great success, everyone had loads of fun. At the end, Mr O decided to take Zak for a canter up the hill, when the wind took hold of the sheet and blew it off him. Zak didn't flinch as Mr O cantered, bare-chested, up the hill. Everyone screamed with laughter. Zak thought he'd been brought to a mad house, but it made a change from racing, so he was ready to go with the flow! What a beautiful boy.
Then we went on a sponsored ride with the Readyfield Bloodhounds, and everything had gone swimmingly. Mr O and Zak went leaping over hedges and ditches. They went back to walk, came to the edge of a field and Zak stumbled over a tractor rut in the mud and went totally lame. Mr O leaped off and helped Zak back to the lorry and we drove straight home.
Cue wonderful vet once again. She diagnosed a serious tendon injury, and suddenly we had two horses on box rest. It was an absolute nightmare. We'd turned Barnaby away by then and used his stable for Zak. Instead of the usual summer break, poor Mr O mucked out every single day for a year. But the story doesn't end there, so I think I'll tell you the rest tomorrow...!